The term “burn out” is thrown around a lot, especially when it comes to work and college. But what exactly does it mean to “burn out”?

According to David Ballard of the American Psychological Association, burnout is, “An extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.”

UC Berkeley psychology professor Christina Maslach defines burnout as, “A combination of exhaustion, depression, and negative feelings about oneself.”

Stress is commonplace in all aspects of life to some extent. Mere stress does not cause people to make big, life-changing decisions with costly long-term consequences life quitting their job or dropping out of college. Burn out cannot be simplified to stress; it is much more complex than that, and it has become an epidemic on college campuses across the country. On average, it takes a college student six years to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree, and many students drop out never to return. This is not happening because they are “stressed out.” It is happening because they are “burnt out,” meaning they are experiencing a crippling combination of exhaustion, depression, and negative feelings about themselves for extended periods of time resulting in a decline in academic performance. This decline is hard to surmount, especially under the weight of exhaustion, depression, and low self-esteem.

As students head back to school, now is a better time than ever to take steps to prevent burnout this school year.

First, students should be realistic about their goals and course load this academic year. Don’t overbook yourself, and that means budgeting time for yourself, your hobbies, your downtime, and your work outside of school. Nothing will lead to burnout faster than over-stretching yourself and then falling short of your unrealistic expectations.

Second, organize! That means get out your calendar and set due dates and reminders for projects big and small. Prioritize projects and give yourself plenty of wiggle room to account for changes and the unexpected.

Third, be healthy! Burnout is both mental and physical, two aspects of yourself that are chemically intertwined.  That means get enough sleep, eat right, and exercise. This keeps you in shape in body and mind, prevents exhaustion, and gets those endorphins flowing which does wonders to combat negative feelings about oneself. Remember, exhaustion is physical and students can easily fall into the trap of neglecting their health. Don’t fall into this trap. Stay healthy this school year and your mind will stay alert and focused.



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